by Paul Magno
(Also Featured in FOX Sports)
So, it’s pretty much official.
Manny Pacquiao will square off against the still-U.S. suspended Antonio Margarito on November 13th at a site to be determined.
The last time we saw Margarito, it was May. He was mugging to the camera and mocking his suspension every chance he got in a lackluster pay-per-view performance against club fighter, Robert Garcia, in a card emanating from Aguascalientes, Mexico.
Every time the camera was on him, he felt the need to grin, hold his fists up to the camera and twirl them as if to say, “Look, no plaster.” It was a good time for him and for his ever-diminishing group of fans, but it did not endear him to the vast majority of fight fanatics who refused to purchase the event (the buyrate was a pitiful 12,000-15,000) and it certainly didn’t win over the hearts of the California commission which suspended him.
Now, the remorseless and blatant cheat who would have willingly gone out and bludgeoned Shane Mosley with loaded hand wraps, is in line for a major payday, major exposure and a major title to boot.
Margarito has yet to receive his license to fight again in the United States and has already had one reinstatement effort put off by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. That being said, it’s hard to see a recession-stricken Las Vegas being able to turn down such a high-profile bout that will generate millions in revenue via Asian high-rollers and Mexican nationals. And even if Margarito isn’t reinstated, the fight will be held in Monterrey, Mexico.
So, there. It’s all set.
In a weight range full of quality talents, much more deserving of the shot than Margarito, Pacquiao promoter, Bob Arum, has decided to match his star attraction against a promotional stablemate in yet another in-house fight.
It’s not like there aren’t credible opponents left for the Filipino champ. Despite the falling apart of a Mayweather matchup, quality names like Timothy Bradley, Paul Williams, Andre Berto and at least a half dozen more would all have been better choices than an over-matched pariah who was beaten from pillar to post the last time he fought a pound-for-pound talent.
Welcome to the world of boxing politics where one day, you’re suspended for having altered hand wraps and the next, someone is writing you a 7-figure paycheck and trying to sell the world on the fact that you’re a swell guy.
Let’s not also forget that Pacquiao-Margarito will be for the vacant WBC junior middleweight title despite the fact that Pacquiao has never even fought at the 154 lb limit and Margarito has only one bout in that division over the last six years. More perverse is the fact that the WBC forced a legitimate, quality champ, Sergio Martinez, to vacate the title just weeks prior to this announcement. If one were inclined to believe in conspiracy theories, this would certainly raise a lot of red flags.
And while it’s easy to blame Bob Arum, the sanctioning bodies and boxing in general for this craziness, at what point do we hold Manny Pacquiao responsible for the things done by his people and done in his name?
After all, he’s agreeing to fight Margarito, agreeing to pay the high six-figure “sanctioning fee” to the WBC and more than willing to take a title shot he hasn’t earned for a belt that he won’t likely defend.
All the insanity stops if Manny puts his foot down, but don’t hold your breath. Because Pacquiao, the media darling and near religious figure to some, is more than willing to take the road of least resistance while letting Arum and trainer, Freddie Roach, come off like the bad guys.
If Pacquiao wins this bout, it will be his eighth title in eight divisions; Truly an impressive fact to read on the back of a baseball card or cereal box. But, in all fairness, his last four titles have come against guys who were not the consensus number one fighters in their respective divisions. Good fighters, yes, but not the best.
Pacquiao moved up to 135 lbs in 2008 and captured the lightweight title by beating paper champion, David Diaz, when Nate Campbell was the recognized best fighter in the division. He moved up to 140 lbs in 2009 and flattened Ricky Hatton (who had already been knocked out by Floyd Mayweather Jr) when Timothy Bradley was already starting to be recognized as the best in that division. Then, he moved on to capture the welterweight title later in 2009 by beating Miguel Cotto despite the fact that Shane Mosley was considered the best fighter in the division after having beaten Margarito (Cotto’s vanquisher) to a pulp.
This latest WBC 154-pound trinket will be the fourth straight division where Manny will stroll in, beat a hand-picked opponent, and claim divisional dominance despite not facing the best fighter in the division. Then he’ll leave the title vacant, the division in chaos and the WBC can re-sell their belt to the next chump.
Like it or not, this is big-time boxing in 2010.
If the fans want a change and want some sort of return to common decency in the sport, they will boycott this circus sideshow and save their pay-per-view money for the real bouts and for the fighters who actually care about the sport enough to not insult our intelligence.